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Leaky Britain:
460 million litres of water wasted each year

  • More than a third of adults (35 per cent) have had to deal with a leak in past 12 months
  • A leak of one drip per second can increase your annual water bill by six per cent
  • Brits leave a leaking tap for an average of three weeks before fixing it

New research from Direct Line Home Insurance1 reveals that for every leaky tap Brits lose on average 25 litres of water, the same as running a dishwasher. In fact, 460 million litres of water is lost through dripping taps each year in the UK alone, enough to fill 184 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

More than a third (35 per cent) of Brits have had to deal with a leak in the past 12 months, equating to approximately 18 million adults across the UK and of those, one in four (5.2 million) have had a major problem that needed fixing. For those on a water meter, a leak of one drip per second could increase an annual water bill by as much as six per cent2.

On average, Brits leave a leaky tap for over three weeks (25 days) before attending to it, however, one in eight (13 per cent) have left it longer than a month, and more than one in ten (11 per cent) adults haven’t fixed the leak in their home, leaving those on a water meter literally letting money run down the drain. The household appliance most likely to cause issues is the kitchen sink (15 per cent), followed by the bathroom sink (12 per cent) and the shower head (eight per cent).

As the Environmental Agency warns that climate change and population increases continue to strain our water supplies3, Direct Line is calling on householders to be aware of water waste and address leaks as soon as possible. Although there may be a cost involved to fix the issue, repairing a leak immediately could save considerable money in the long-term, as a consistent leak can often result in further damage to your home.

The most common reason people dealt with a dripping tap straight away was so they didn’t waste water (24 per cent), which was followed by the increase it would make to their water bill (13 per cent). However, 11 per cent said they left a leak because it didn’t bother them and seven per cent said that they found the drip annoying but didn’t fix it because they didn’t use the room the tap was in or because it would be too expensive to do so.

Table one: Actions people took when they had a leak

What did you do when you had a leak? Percentages (%)
Fixed it straight away because it would waste water 24%
Fixed it straight away because the noise was annoying 16%
Fixed it straight away because it would make my water bill more expensive 13%
Didn’t fix it straight away because it was my Landlord’s problem, not mine 13%
It didn’t bother me, so I left it 11%
Tried to fix it myself which helped a little so I left it a while 9%
Waited until I had saved the money for a plumber 7%
The drip was annoying but didn’t fix it because it was too expensive 5%
The drip was annoying, but I didn’t fix it because I didn’t use that room often 2%

Source: Direct Line Home Insurance 2018

Ryan Misiakowski, Disaster Recovery Manager at Direct Line Home Plus commented: “The drip, drip, drip of a leaky tap can not only be annoying, but also have a negative impact on the environment and your household bills. While it might not seem particularly problematic to begin with, this research shows just how much water is going to waste and how costly one small leak can be.

“The Environmental Agency has warned that much of England, particularly the South East, could see significant supply shortages by 2050. By being vigilant and attending to leaks quickly and efficiently, no matter the size, could prevent water waste and save you money on bills and water damage to your home. Homeowners should also ensure they have adequate home insurance cover to avoid a hefty bill should their home be damaged by water from a leak.“

To protect their property, consumers can take advantage of Direct Line Home Plus which includes both Emergency Plumber and Fast Response cover. The services ensure a plumber attends a customer’s property within three hours to address unstoppable leaks and following an incident such as a burst pipe, technicians will get to work to get you back on track within 24 hours.

Direct Line tips on how to fix a dripping tap:

  • Turn off the water: Always cut off the water supply to the tap before working on it, this will prevent any additional damage being done by leaking water. This can be done by either the stopcock or the isolation valve. The isolation valve can usually be found underneath the sink. Always run the tap until there is no water left to ensure it has all gone.
  • Remove handle: Remove the tap handle. This can usually be done by lifting the cover and removing the screw. Always put the plug in the sink before unscrewing anything. That way nothing important will get lost down the drain.
  • Unscrew tap mechanism: Unscrew the tap mechanism by turning it anti-clockwise. This will allow you to get to the tap washer on the bottom. When taking the tap apart, remove and place out in the order you take apart to make it simpler to reconstruct.
  • Replacing a ceramic disc: If you need to replace the ceramic disc, once you take off the metal shroud you’ll be able to see the valve. Grip with an adjustable spanner and turn until loose enough to remove. Put on the replacement and tighten it. You can then reconstruct the tap.
  • Replacing rubber washer: Grip and turn the valve with an adjustable spanner until it is loose enough to remove. Slide or unscrew the rubber washer off and put the new one on. Once that is complete, put the valve back on, tighten up and put the tap back together.
  • Replacing an O-ring: If the O-ring is the issue, unscrew the grub screw at the bottom of the spout, then lift the spout off carefully. The O-ring should then be visible at the base, use a flat-head screwdriver to loosen and slide it off or you can snip with a pair of scissors to remove. Roll the replacement on, put the spout back, tighten the grub screw and reconstruct the whole tap.

For further information on Direct Line Home Insurance please visit
https://www.directline.com/home-cover/fix-a-leaky-tap

Notes to editors

1Research conducted by Opinium amongst 2,005 UK adults between 25 & 29 May 2018
2Research conducted by Citigate Dewe Rogerson in May 2018
3 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environment-agency-calls-for-action-on-water-efficiency

Emergency plumber

Direct Line will pay up to £500 (including VAT) for emergency assistance to cover the cost of the call-out, labour at the customer’s home, and parts to fix the leak.

For water leaks that can be contained by turning off the water supply, Direct Line will still ensure an Emergency Plumber is sent to the property at a time convenient for the householder. Customers also benefit from no excess charges for plumber call outs and unlimited call outs during their policy period.

Terms and conditions – Included as standard on Direct Line Home Plus. Excludes Highlands and Islands. Extreme weather conditions may extend response time. Terms and cover limits apply.

Fast response

Home insurer Direct Line promises to get to work within 24 hours after a severe leak so you will get back on track.

The technician will review the damage to your property in its entirety and make use of video technology to report back to the office, speeding your claim up The technician will leave the customer with clear next steps on who will make contact, when and what action they are recommending.

Where appropriate to do so, they will also clean or remove waste from the property to help get things started or prevent further damage by installing drying equipment, moving items away from damaged areas or taking moisture readings.

Terms and conditions – Included as standard on Direct Line Home policies. Excludes Highlands and Islands, extreme weather conditions may extend response time, £350 escape of water excess applies, underwritten by UK Insurance Limited

For further information please contact:

Claire Jarrett
Direct Line Home PR Manager
claire.jarrett @directlinegroup.co.uk
01651 832 411

Antonia Green
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
antonia.green@citigatedr.co.uk
0207 282 2967

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.
Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com/home-cover